Television Review: The Iraq War

Written by Civil Service World on 21 June 2013 in Culture

So much has been said about Iraq in the 10 years since war was declared that it feels as if there’s nothing this new documentary from the BBC could possibly tell us. But its sober re-examination of the lead-up to the invasion and the subsequent attempt to rebuild the Iraqi state astonishes with the depth of its access, and in its detail rescues the Iraq War from the political and cultural mythos.

A chronological retelling of events expanded on through interviews, the series’ strength is its equal representation of western and Iraqi voices. It is amazing to hear an Iraqi general admit that on the eve of invasion he still thought there were WMDs, or a Sunni insurgent leader calmly elucidate his reasoning.

Assuming you believe the talking heads, there’s no questions of conspiracy or war for oil. But the first episode, Regime Change, leaves no doubt over how tenuous was the evidence which made the case for war, and how US bullishness led the country to a position from which war was inevitable.

The pivotal moment of last week’s second episode, After the Fall, was the decision of the Coalition Provisional Authority’s Walt Slocombe and Jerry Bremer to dissolve the Iraqi army, to the bafflement and despair of almost everyone involved. The disenfranchised troops became the nub of the insurgency, and Gen David Petraeus recalls telling Slocombe: “Your policies are killing my soldiers.”

Tonight’s final episode, It’s Hell Mr President, examines how the creation of a Shia-led government led to internecine war between Sunni and Shia. We all know how the story ends. But I will be watching, amazed at the insights gathered by the BBC – and despairing at the mistakes made by the allies.

On BBC iPlayer until 19 June

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